As an international student, moving to the US can be a stressful time, and planning ahead will make things easier. Below are some important tasks to take care of so you can hit the ground running as soon as school starts.
Set up a bank account
Bring cash with you when you travel to the US so that you can open a bank account. A US bank account will make it easier to manage your finances, get money quickly without excessive fees, and easily pay your bills. Find out which banks are most convenient for you (some may even be on campus), the types of accounts available and if there are any special requirements to open a new account. Make sure your new account has low or no monthly fees, minimal required balances and a reasonable transaction limit in case your ATM card is stolen.
Set up a credit card
Setting up a credit card is your ticket to establishing a solid financial footprint. Renting an apartment, securing a loan, getting a new job or starting a business will all require a good credit rating. Even if you don’t know if you want to stay in the US after school, having a credit card and paying your bills on time can have a big impact on your ability to start a life in America. If the long-term benefits are not motivation enough, using a credit card is also much safer than using a debit card. Unlike a credit card, a debit card is not protected. If your debit card is stolen or lost, and someone gets access to your account, there is no way to recover the money lost.
Choose a cell phone plan
It’s in your best interest to get a cell phone as soon as you arrive. Your best bet is to buy a new phone and setting up a prepaid plan because no contract is required. They may cost more per month, but do not require a Social Security number (SSN) or a credit check because you pay money each month to cover a month’s worth of service. There are also plenty of free mobile and desktop messaging apps – such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and WeChat – that are easy and convenient options.
Report to Your School and Join On-Campus Orientations
U.S. institutions offer a specialized orientation required for international students in addition to standard student orientation activities. International students should attend both as they cover different information. At these orientations, you will meet your Designated School Official (DSO) to check in, complete your required visa information session, and learn more about the institution’s international student policies and procedures including minimum enrollment, part-time employment, keeping your visa in good standing, and more.
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As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.